Najin Sword – can they pull off the first ever repeat?

MakNooN (Top)

Watch (Jungle)

Ssong (Mid)

PraY (AD)

Cain (Supp)

-          3rd OGN Champions Summer (W 2:0 Blaze)

-          5th ~ 8th Season 2 World Championship (L 0:2 TPA)

-          2nd MLG Fall Championship (L 1:4 Blaze)

-          1st OGN Champions Winter (W 3:0 Frost)

Team review

After the devastating loss against MiG Frost during the inaugural season of OGN Champions, many fans were voicing their dissatisfaction against MakNooN and his costly throws that caused the team to lose games. The head of the Najin corporation did decide to remove MakNooN from the Najin e-mfire team but knowing MakNooN’s talent, he decided to give MakNooN a second chance by letting him form a team which would suit his Do Dive playing style better. The end product of MakNooN’s search was what is now known as Najin Sword. In their early days, Najin Sword was known as MakNooN’s one man show who would love to dive the opposing team when given the chance and be flamboyant in their playing style. They were also a team who were known to be good in the lane but if you stalled against them, you could almost guarantee a victory. This was definitely the case until Najin Sword had a match with CLG.Eu, a team that was known to be one of the best in the world at dragging games out and winning those games. After their loss to CLG.Eu, Sword was a completely different team and with their new found improvement, they were able to beat Blaze twice en route to a place in the season 2 finals an impressive feat considering the team was only formed before the Summer season of OGN. After the Season 2 championships, the Sword team improved further and they were able to win OGN Champions Winter in a dominating fashion. During this season of OGN the champions, Sword will be out to defend their title as champions and they will look to once again triumph over their “lol classico” rivals en route to a victory.


Team Strengths

Much improved late game management

Ever since the aforementioned CLG.EU game, Najin Sword ‘s ability to manage late game situations has improved significantly. There are several reasons for Najin Sword’s improvement in their in-game management. The most important reason is the number of high level competitive matches that this was able to have in short amount of time and all of the experiences cumulated during that time. Many teams who are able to beat an established team during the laning phase don’t lack mechanical ability what they usually lack is the decision making which allows them to press their advantages and end games. When experience allowed the members of Sword to finally learn how to team fight at a high level and snowball their advantages by performing objectives, Sword became one of the most well rounded teams in Korea. The combined strength of Sword’s aggressive laning with their improve late game was too difficult for anyone to handle last season. It remains to be seen if Sword can still remain as the most balanced team in Korea for the upcoming season with their formidable laning phase and late game since they will be challenged by the old favourites CJ Entus Blaze & Frost but they will be fielding challenges from new powerhouses like KT B.

No longer a one man team

When people think about Sword, the immediate reaction is for people top think about MakNooN. In recent times however, the team’s focus has shifted from MakNooN to other members of the team. PraY is a player who is still not a household name outside of Korea but PraY is definitely one of if not the best ADC in Korea at this point and time. What makes PraY such an amazing ADC is his impeccable positioning in team fights which allows him to deal the maximum amount of damage without being killed by the opposing tanks. With signature champions like Kogmaw and Twitch, Sword can always count on PraY to fill a hyper carry role to win the game. In addition to PraY, Ssong has definitely improved tremendously ever since his introduction into the league scene. During the early days, Ssong (along with watch) was seen as liabilities for the team and when he was able to carry a game, people would be surprised more often than not. During last Champion’s Winter however, Ssong was able to carry games after games with his amazing mechanics and he was becoming the top priority target to shut down for the opposing teams instead of MakNooN. Ssong’s playing has improved so much that when teams face Sword, they are forced to ban TF, Evelyn or Kayle, the 3 champions that Ssong excels at.  With the emphasis now being on other members of the team, Sword no longer crumbles if you just shut down MakNooN in a game. In fact in recent matches, teams have been able to control MakNooN but Sword has demonstrated the ability to win games with an ineffective MakNooN. Even without the aggressive roaming that we are used to seeing from MakNooN, Sword now finds a way to win games and this is definitely a testament to the team’s growth in ability.

Fast adaptation to foreign strategies

Whether it’s because MakNooN keeps up to date on foreign tournaments quite frequently or for other reasons, Najin Sword has been one of the fastest adapters to new metas in the Korean scene. This fast adaptation to new “OP” champions or item builds has allowed Najin Sword to gain an advantage during the last season of Champions especially in the finals when they benchmarked GG’s tactics to dismantle Frost. Being able to play a new playing style in a short amount of time is definitely a daunting task especially if it involves learning new champions to work out at the competitive level. On the other hand, playing against new styles is an even more difficult task for the opposition as they may never have had the chance to prepare against it. However, with new comers showing they too can adapt to the new metas, it is uncertain if Najin Sword’s fast adaptation can remain their unique strength in the upcoming champions.


Team weaknesses

What happened to MakNooN?

After the winter finals, Sword has competed in numerous tournaments but in almost every single match they’ve had, MakNooN was being outclassed by almost every top laner. This is partially due to the fact that he was against a 2 v 1 match-up for teams not wanting to go against the PraY/Cain duo but even given this fact, he did much worse compared to the other top laner. One reason for this could have been that after he won the finals, he hasn’t practiced as much as before and given his tendencies to make decisions when the game doesn’t go too well for him, it wouldn’t bode well for him if his skill level has deteriorated. Another reason could have definitely been due to the MakNooN scandal that has surfaced after the winter finals ended. It’s clear that pro players are often checking on the fansites to see what their supporters thought about them and when MakNooN saw the community being quite negative about him, he could have become disappointed and lacked his usual confidence going into matches. The other reason could have been that all of his contemporaries have now caught up to him in terms of skill level or even surpassed him but this is hard to believe since this was a guy who displayed his dominance not too long ago. Whatever it is that’s ailing MakNooN, he must sort them out and go back to being MakNooN. Even if his team is not as reliant on him anymore, this is still his team and he still has quite an impact on his team with his playing. Sword better hope that MakNooN recovers fast else they may not be as dominant as people think they are.

Inconsistencies of Watch and Ssong

It is true that during the Winter season, this duo of Ssong and Watch has shown considerable growth as players and they have shown the ability to carry their teams when they need it. However, they still show that from time to time, their playing is not as consistent as the team’s bot duo. Ssong especially is the most noticeable victim to inconsistent playing largely due to the huge gap that exists between his good days and bad days. When you watch Ssong on good days, he can be an indomitable force in the mid lane being able to single handedly carry his team to victory from the brinks of defeat (Game 2 against LGD and entire set against KT B of Champions Winter) but when he’s not playing well he’s usually the reason that his team loses  (games against iG). Ssong will need to bring his best every night out in their group because all of the mid players in the group have the potential to carry their team to victory on any given night and with MakNooN being in the state he is in right now, Sword will definitely need Ssong to carry their games along with PraY on a nightly basis. The inconsistent playing of Watch is quite peculiar. On his good days he is definitely a great jungler being able to make ganks and also being able to make great decisions during team fights but on bad days it just seems like he’s lost, he makes terrible decisions and his movements get read by the other team quite easily. Having more of a support role compared to a carry role, Watch will need to play well to be able to support his carries from doing the maximum amounts of damage during team fight situations for Sword to be successful.

Weak early game?

For a Sword team which used to be known as the strongest team in Korea bdfore the 20 minute mark, it was surprising to see that in their recent matches, they actually fell behind quite a bit in all of their matches before turning it around with super human efforts in team fights and through overall good late game management (creep pushing, objectives, baron fishing etc.). It is peculiar to see however, that the team who was best known for being so strong and aggressive in the lane has lost their luster. It is also troubling that when Sword faced teams who were considered below their level, they were able to recover from falling behind early but when they faced a team like iG who were equal or better than them in skill level, they were snowballed against and lost their games quite lopsidedly. If Sword wants to compete with teams like KT B, Blaze and Frost they will need to go back to their Champions Winter ways when they dominated during the laning phase because their team fighting or late game management is still not on par with a team like Blaze or Frost. It is also a big loss for a team to have one of their biggest strengths being turned into one of their weaknesses.  We will be able to see if Najin Sword’s change in playing style is a temporary ordeal or not in the coming days.


Key player: Ssong (Mid)

Even though this team is still considered MakNooN’s team, the shift has now definitely changed from MakNooN to players like Ssong and PraY. Ssong will need to recapture his dominant and consistent self from the Winter season playoffs for Sword to have a chance at the first ever repeat in the OGN Champions tournament history. On his good days, Ssong may be the best mid player in Korea even ahead of the likes of Ambition and Easyhoon and he’ll have a chance to prove that when he faces against them in his group. With MakNooN’s performance being worrisome, the burden will fall on Ssong’s shoulders to give his team a hope for a win in each game they play.

 Why Ssong needs to be in top shape

Team Expectations

Being last year’s champions, it is no secret that they have a target on their backs. While their recent form is worrisome, I have no doubt that they will make it out of their group but should they not place 1st or 2nd, they may be forced to play against a team like Frost, KT B or SKT T1 which may give their team some trouble on their way to the finals.


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